#Bandcampgold-The Professionals by Madlib & Oh No
It’s impossible to fairly discuss Madlib. If you like any of the levels of rap below pop superstardom, he is everywhere you go. He produced most of the important songs on my favorite Mos Def album (2009’s The Ecstatic) not to mention MF Doom’s high point (2004’s Madvillainy) and has forged one of the most important friendships in hip hop with Freddie Gibbs (2019’s Bandana and 2014’s Pinata). The reverence for his intelligence and execution became embarrassing and has made it difficult to observe his artistic life.
I first noticed this with Raekwon. Since he’s released Cuban Linx he’s a legend and if he releases a new album that slaps the response is “The legend is back! #dopeness” If his new album isn’t good it was “This ain’t Cuban Linx, dog.” It gave everyone a pass to stop critically observing him.
The Professionals is a perfect opportunity to soak in the progress. This is a full length collaboration between Madlib and his younger brother Oh No. Oh No is a killer producer (he did two of my other favorite songs on The Ecstatic). In 2010 he formed a group with Alchemist where they rapped and produced under the name Gangrene. It was an opportunity for two genius level rap producers to mess around with different song structures and samples while having fun rapping with no pressure. They did 7 projects together and along the way became quite seriously good. Oh No became a dope rapper, as an afterthought, to his immense producing skill.
I am intrigued by what Freddie Gibbs has brought to Madlib’s production. Anyone familiar knows Madlib is a master of all different textures specifically showcased in his Beat Konducta series Jazz, Indian music, etc. What the kinship with Freddie has done for him is instilled a real urgency to make these songs propulsive. It’s not enough to create an incredible vibe with the right sample and a piano part, this thing has to bang! I’ve been working out to this album since it came out. It’s top tier workout rap, which you might not have expected if you knew Madlib in 2010.
Superhumans is the posse track most heads will be drawn to. Oh No shares the spotlight with lyrical heavyweights Elzhi and Chino XL. Both of them bring their best qualities to bear, especially Chino XL who increases the pace of the song and name checks superheroes. As glorious an experience as it is, I am much more excited by the songs that work incredibly well with just the brothers (Madlib & Oh No). My favorite song is Give N Take, a real bass and synth West Coast banger. It’s a song Tupac would have played riding around Oxnard. This album has a killer run of songs from two to seven that are just trunk rattling fun. From the title track to CDP Smackdown its high adrenaline beats with dialed in verses. Buggin’ is such a great old school rap song. From 88 to 98 we had so many songs called or about Buggin’! Listen to the giant beat stomping forward on Timeless Treasures as Madlib clears a few seconds for the sample to take center stage before throwing it in the background.
The professionals is beats and raps. It won’t end up as the best album of the year, it doesn’t have a coming-out-of-rehab or heartbreak element but what it does have is energy and enthusiasm. The kind that carries repeated listening experiences from the first time to fifteenth without much fade. Other albums have energy like this but these two have been cranking out dope hip hop songs for decades. They should be slow and crusty and bitter, instead they sound like could be signed to TDE. It makes me very happy and looking forward to the full length project between Westside Gunn and Madlib that was announced at the end of last year.
Stream or purchase The Professionals below: